Women at War
During World War II many Queensland women “did their bit” for the war effort on the home front and overseas. Some had completely new jobs created to directly help with the war effort. Others took up positions to fill a labour shortage due to the absence of men who were away fighting in the war.
The four women featured below represent a small number of those who were eager and willing to contribute to the Queensland response and war effort.
Eve Scott (nee Hicks) was born in Longreach, Queensland in December 1917. She served in the Women’s Auxiliary Australian Air Force (WAAAF) during World War II. She married Norm Scott on 24 October 1944.
Much of Eve’s service was with the Central Intelligence Bureau in Brisbane working in the highly secret code breaking area that played a major part in the defeat of the Japanese forces. Eve wrote A Woman at War in 1985 about her own wartime experiences and edited a collection of stories told by RAAF and WAAAF veterans entitled Untold & Told Stories of the Air Force. Eve’s career was underpinned by her passionate love for Australia and patriotism remained a strong feature of her character. Eve’s contribution to the war effort came to light when in March 2002 she and other codebreakers were recognised by the Queensland Department of Innovation and Information Economics at a ceremony at a “Women in Technology” lunch at the Queensland University of Technology.
In this excerpt Eve talks about her experience working in the 'code breaking' unit based in Brisbane. More information about Eve's oral history on Suzanne's website.
Edith Edwards (née Cox) was born in Brisbane, Queensland in November 1926. She grew up in Brisbane and joined the Australian Women’s Land Army in 1942. Her service number was P449. She worked on country farms as part of the war effort to ensure the supply of food. In the years since the war ended, she was a tireless campaigner to have the Land Army formally recognised as the “fourth” Service.
Edith was 16 years old when she followed her sister into the Land Army. Her first posting was on a pineapple farm with another Land Army girl named Ann. One weekend when Ann was away the farmer assaulted Edith while she was making the boxes for packing the pineapples. She avoided explaining the situation to the farmer’s wife so she spent a terrifying night afraid he would try again. When Ann returned, Edith told her what had happened. Ann contacted their supervisor and they were removed from the farm. A few postings later, Edith began working with another young woman, Penny, at Wyberba near Wallangarra. They picked peaches, apples and grapes on the farm. One day Penny asked the landowner “Are there any dances ‘round here?”
Listen to Edith as she tells us what happened in this excerpt. More information about Edith's oral history on Suzanne's website.
Hazel Hernsdorf was born in Brisbane, Queensland in 1923. She grew up in Brisbane and had an interesting secretarial career. She worked for the US Navy during World War II, at the ABC studio at Toowong in its early days and ended her career with a 20-year stint at the United Nations Secretariat. While working for the United States Navy, Hazel learnt to take shorthand at very high speed, which proved a valuable skill during her working life.
Hazel worked at the big US Naval Hospital at Camp Hill, Brisbane. Before that she worked in a legal office for the Americans in Queen Street, giving out citations, Purple Hearts and Silver Stars, but she wasn't there long before that office was transferred north to the islands. Later when Hazel worked at the Courts Martial there were many interesting cases.
In this excerpt she describes part of her experience. More information about Hazel's oral history on Suzanne's website.
Muriel Bath (nee Beresford) was born in England on 24 August 1908. She migrated to Australia with her family at a very young age. She trained as a stenographer, joined the Women's Royal Australian Naval Service (WRANS) during World War II and was one of the first policewomen in the Queensland Police Force, joining in 1947.
Muriel had been working for a legal firm for 15 years and then the war came. The man she planned to marry was an officer on a ship and he was in the Malta convoy. There were approximately 54 ships in the Atlantic and Malta was under blockade. It was the 13th August 1942 and the convoy taking supplies to the Maltese people was hit by a dive-bomber. This was the last anyone saw of Muriel's fiancé - he had a small gun, shooting at the dive-bomber. He went down with the ship and soon after that, it appeared in the paper the Australian armed forces were forming the Women's Royal Australian Naval Service and they wanted women. Muriel applied immediately.
Listen to Muriel as she tells us what happened in this excerpt. More information about Muriel's oral history on Suzanne's website.
The four oral histories featured in this blog are part of a suite of 32 oral histories Suzanne recorded between 2002 and 2019.
Collectively the oral histories reveal the lives of individual Queenslanders and Australians whose experiences in the past were varied, unique, unusual and of great interest to historians and researchers.
Suzanne’s interest in oral histories and recording began in the late 1980s. She has built a professional career as an oral historian and is an active contributor and member of Oral History Queensland and Oral History Australia.
Guest Blogger Suzanne Mulligan, Oral Historian
- 31267 Suzanne Mulligan Oral Histories Archive ca. 1939-2017, John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland.
- OM90-04 Australian Women's Land Army records,1942-1975, John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland.
- A woman at war, Eve Scott, McCann Publications, 1985, John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland.
- Untold & told stories of the Air Force : R.A.A.F. & W.A.A.A.F, Eve Scott, 1997, John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland.
- Australian Women’s Land Army catalogue search
- The Australian Women's Land Army Records 1942-1975
- The Queensland Women’s Land Army
- Australian Women at Work in WWII: Keep Cool and Carry On
Other blogs by Suzanne Mulligan